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Jun 2015 by PCI College

Connection Profile: Aware

Dr Claire Hayes, Clinical Director of Aware tells us about the organisation's nationwide work, and the hugely successful 'Life Skills' programme they run to help those coping with anxiety and depression.

Aware was founded in 1985 by Dr. Patrick McKeon. Its mission is to create a society where people with depression and their families are understood and supported, are free from stigma and have access to a broad range of appropriate therapies to enable them to reach their full potential. Its key objectives are:


1. To educate the public on the nature, extent and consequences of depression.

2. To provide emotional and practical support to those affected by depression and related disorders.

3. To provide positive mental health and resilience training.

4. To support research into the development and treatment of depression and related issues.

Aware currently has thirteen full time staff; seven part time staff, 400 volunteers and twenty trainers. All of Aware services are underpinned by clinical expertise and are independently evaluated.  Following external review in 2011, Aware’s Support Line and Support Groups were restructured and strengthened. The Support Line service is provided by trained Aware volunteers, supported by a Support Line Manager, who have responded to over 50, 000 calls in the past three years. There are currently 45 Support Groups nationwide which meet on a weekly basis to support people who experience depression and other mood disorders. There are also two specific Support Groups for family members who support someone who has depression. The Aware website (www.aware.ie) has a video illustrating how the Aware Support Group service works.

Aware’s services have expanded in recent years to provide programmes based on cognitive behavioural therapy to adolescents and adults free of charge. The Six Session group programme, Life Skills, was developed by Professor Chris Williams and has to date been delivered to more than five thousand adults since it was first introduced in 2012. External evaluation has consistently found that participation in the group has had a significant positive impact on individuals’ mood using the self-reported measures the PHQ9 and the GAD7.

The Life Skills Online programme was developed by Dr. John Sharry and his colleagues in Silver Cloud. This is an eight module online programme based on cognitive behavioural principles, supported by trained Aware volunteers. To date over one thousand adults have participated in this since it was first introduced in 2013. External evaluation by Trinity College in 2014, using a rigourous randomised control trial (RCT), has demonstrated the effectiveness of this programme in reducing depression and anxiety among participants. The results of this research were presented by Dr. Derek Richards in a lecture given in St. Patrick’s Hospital on 8th November 2010. This lecture can be watched on www.aware.ie along with over 24 other lectures given by professionals in the area in the past two years.

A key focus of Aware is how to support young people to develop reslience and coping skills. Its Positive Mental Health Programme has been delivered, free of charge to schools, to over 90,000 students (aged 15 to 18 years old) since 2012. Aware is now developing online and group Life Skills programmes for this age group.

As over 90% of Aware’s services are funded by donations, it works proactively to develop links with organisations and since 2014 provides a range of ‘Wellness at Work’ programmes.

Research is a key aspect of Aware’s work and in addition to supporting post-graduate students in a range of research projects, it works collaboratively with third level institutions such as UCD and Trinity to determine how people who have depression can be supported better.

Aware has a very committed Board of Directors who work in a voluntary capacity to ensure that the it follows the highest standards in corporate responsibility. Aware’s accounts are published on line and it is in the top 1% of charities according to Boardmatch Ireland.

Aware’s website, www.aware.ie received over 300,000 unique visitors in 2014. It provides a range of information including details of each of Aware’s services, its governance, its accounts as well as information on depression and mood disorder

Aware continues to carry out its services because of the calibre and commitment of its volunteers, supported by Aware’s core team of staff and trainers. All Aware volunteers and trainers are provided with appropriate and extensive training. In May 2015 Aware was delighted and honoured to be awarded with the Investing in Volunteers Quality Standard, the Irish and UK quality standard for organisations involving volunteers. It was a fitting tribute to mark 30 years of Aware and the organisation looks forward to developing and strengthening in the years ahead. 


Dr Claire Hayes, (June 2015)

Clinical Director, Aware

About Dr Claire Hayes:
Dr. Claire Hayes has been involved with Aware since 2002, first as a volunteer member of the Board of Directors and over the past four years as Clinical Director on a part-time basis. She qualified as a clinical psychologist in 1994 and has a particular interest and specialism in psychoeducational approaches to coping and prevention. Her work in Aware involves her working with a highly skilled and motivated team of staff and volunteers to support people who experience depression and other mood disorders and their families. Her second book ‘How to cope: The welcoming approach to life’s challenges’ was published by Gill and MacMillan in April 2015.

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